Vichy’s historic attempt to be recognized as world heritage
Elvira Berisha, Alberina Haxhijaj
The town of Vichy, in the Auvergne region is making history with the very first attempt to be recognized as world heritage. The city, known for the mix of architectural heritage – with Byzantine, Moorish, Venetian, neo-gothic elements – which has a rich history, is completing the dossier of application to seek protection from United Nation Education Science and Cultural Organization.
Vichy has been nominated to present France’s cultural heritage, under the umbrella of a joint project named “Great Spas of Europe”, which includes seven countries with eleven cities. They agreed to collaborate on their attempts to complete the dossiers and to seek a place in the list of world heritage. Among the countries of “GSE” are France (Vichy), Czech Republic (Frantiskovy Lazne, Karlovy Vary, Marianske Lazne), Germany (Bad Ems, Bad Kissingen, Baden-Baden), England (Bath), Italy (Montecatini Terme), Austria (Baden bei Wien) and Belgium (Spa). The City of Vichy is waiting for the answer in July 2020, at the meeting of the General Assembly of UNESCO
Yves-Jean Bignon, Deputy Mayor of Vichy, underlines the many spinoffs for the city that will bring this global recognition.
“We expect many benefits. The first benefit would be to give the city a better image. Of course, international recognition for the city. We would have more tourists and it will help the economic development. Vichy is known for its heritage.”, said Yves-Jean Bignon.
He also indicated that the group was working on the final finishing touches to the UNESCO World Heritage nomination file and that they had an appointment in Paris on January 22 to submit the latest official version.
“We present this particular organization of the 11 historic spa towns of Western Europe. Till now, in Vichy, there is no monument under the protection of UNESCO”, says Yves-Jean Bignon, adding details about the map of the area that will be included in the file.
« The area of Vichy which would be registered with UNESCO (area of the « good ») includes all the thermal district with its parks as well as the old city thus including the Source des Célestins. In addition, a wider « buffer zone » has been defined which would not be inscribed but which would contribute to enhancing and preserving the area of the « good »: this zone goes from the river Sichon in the North to the Parc des Bourins in the South, the SNCF station to the east and overflows to the west on the left bench of the river Allier with the racecourse and golf course that were built at the same time « says Yves-Jean Bignon.
He says that the city’s policy is to protect historical monuments but it is also very important to be labeled as world heritage.
“I think we have a good chance to get this protection. The Committee might give us recommendations at our meeting in January and during their visit in September 2019. The committee will give its opinion at the earliest in July 2020, ” says Yves-Jean Bignon, adding that international working groups and local groups were working on the project.
« We need to show how to preserve heritage. In agreement with the Mayor, we plan from 2019, to organize many exhibitions and workshops to explain to the citizens the importance of this project. Our goal is to get their active support and that they can become the ambassadors of our candidacy », says Yves-Jean Bignon.
“Queen of thermal spa town” has been described Vichy in a brochure, giving details about attempts of the city to be recognized by UNESCO. Recognized for centuries for its beneficial waters, Vichy is built around hydrotherapy and thermal spa activities. From the second half of the nineteenth century, in part with the support of the Emperor Louis Napoleon III, Vichy and the Spa industry went through a boom.
Alongside the River Allier, in Vichy, there are a number of private buildings, homes of well-known personalities and castles as well. Among its historic monuments stands the Vichy Town Opera. Its architecture offers an ideal showcase for musical and vocal talents and all lyrical genres can be experienced in the Italian-style concert hall, with its harmonious decoration in gold and ivory.